Rosie Bancroft, a below the knee amputee, volunteered in South Africa with African Conservation Experience (ACE)
My disability and how it affects my everyday life
I was born missing my right leg below the knee and have had many operations since, as my bones and knee in my stump have caused a lot of problems. I am extremely independent and I don’t find my disability often affects me. However, I find walking a struggle sometimes and I can be in a lot of pain.
Why I wanted to be a gap year volunteer
I was about to start my Zoology degree when I went on my trip. The idea of working with the ‘Big 5’ in Africa was amazing, I set my heart on going as soon as I saw African Conservation Experience’s projects!
The story of my gap year
I chose a project volunteering with a wildlife vet, helping him in surgery in his practice and on the game reserves, darting and treating endangered animals like rhinos and leopards. My trip cost about £2500. I sold some of my old things, did a sponsored 10k swim and used my savings to pay for it.
At the airport I met another girl who was volunteering and we flew to South Africa where we were met at the airport and looked after very well. We stayed with the vet’s parents-in-law in an annex to their house. We ate, slept and relaxed there and I can’t put into words how unbelievable the family were. I’ve never met people so caring and with such love for life. They totally embraced us and made our trip so special, I felt like part of the family!
Our days involved getting up early for work at the practice where we would assist with surgeries and seeing any poorly animals that came in (from baby baboons, rare caracals and antelopes to dogs and cats). In the afternoons we went out on calls to game reserves, breeding centres and farms to help treat animals in the wild. This was the best bit and we had the amazing experience of injecting a rhino, petting a cheetah, riding in a helicopter and so much more. I learnt so much and grew as a person, and got close and personal to the most incredible animals. It was hard work and sometimes not easy emotionally or physically, for example if your patient doesn’t make it, but so worth it.
How my disability was accommodated by my gap year organisation
When I spoke to ACE and explained my disability, they were so supportive and chatted on the phone for an hour making sure we had thought of any possible issues and how to deal with them. At first they were concerned how I would be able to do things like jump on and off a pickup truck in the African bush or stand up through surgery, but I explained I would adapt to anything but might have to do things in my own way. The vet was so supportive and helped me off the truck, offered me chairs and even piggy-backed me through the bush when we were running after an antelope!
The way my disability was treated by the local community
Everyone I met in South Africa was wonderful and I never received any negative response about my disability. The family I stayed with treated me exactly the same and were fascinated and impressed by it. The other volunteers were the same.
My advice to others who have disabilities
I am proud to be missing my leg and wouldn’t change it for the world as it makes me who I am. Never think that having a disability means you can’t do something. You will almost always be able to find a way, it might not be how everyone else does it but that doesn’t matter. If you want to do something, like travel the world or inject rhinos, then go for it! My trip was one of the best experiences of my life.
Rosie achieved 11 GCSEs and 3 A levels and is now at Manchester University studying Zoology. She hopes to work in research and conservation. She is also a professional swimmer in heavy training for the Rio Paralympic Games.